The Democratic Party of Japan will support social critic Keiko Higuchi in her bid against incumbent Shintaro Ishihara in the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election, party lawmakers said Thursday.

But while Katsuya Okada, DPJ secretary general, Banri Kaieda, chairman of the party’s Tokyo chapter, and other party lawmakers have agreed to back Higuchi, the DPJ caucus in the metropolitan assembly remains divided.

On Wednesday, eight party members in the assembly declared their support for Ishihara, who has maintained close ties with Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party.

The DPJ wants to present a united front in the April 13 election.

Higuchi, 70, has expressed her intention not to seek party support in campaigning for the governorship. She made her candidacy public Wednesday.

The Social Democratic Party also endorsed Higuchi at a meeting of party executives Thursday.

Members of the SDP’s Tokyo chapter earlier decided to back Higuchi, saying she shares the party’s philosophy and political stance.

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